Skip to main content Accessibility help

Carbon Reservoir Effects in Eastern Oyster from Apalachicola Bay, USA

  • Carla S Hadden (a1) and Alexander Cherkinsky (a1)


Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is an ubiquitous estuarine shellfish taxon in eastern North America and one of the most abundant materials available for radiocarbon (14C) dating. We examine spatiotemporal variability in carbon reservoir effects among pre-bomb oysters from Apalachicola Bay, USA, a river-influenced estuary on the northern Gulf of Mexico. Shells were sampled at multiple points along the valve to produce time-series records of 14C variation during the lives of the mollusks. Conventional ages within shells differed by as little as 36 14C yr to as much as 295 14C yr. Reservoir offsets varied sub-regionally within the estuary, increasing from 92±37 yr in the eastern edge of study region to 227±110 yr in the west, reflecting the influence of 14C-depleted dissolved inorganic carbon from the Apalachicola River. Dynamic carbon reservoirs can pose problems for the estimation of ΔR and for building coastal chronologies. Estimating sub-regional ΔR values can be useful for assessing the range of variability in reservoir offsets within an estuary, and for correcting sample ages if the shell origin is known. Greater variability and/or uncertainty in ΔR lead to greater uncertainty in the calibrated age.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email:


Hide All

Selected Papers from the 8th Radiocarbon & Archaeology Symposium, Edinburgh, UK, 27 June–1 July 2016



Hide All
Andrus, CFT, Thompson, VD. 2012. Determining the habitats of mollusk collection at the Sapelo Island shell ring complex, Georgia, USA using oxygen isotope sclerochronology. Journal of Archaeological Science 39(2):215228.
Ascough, PL, Cook, GT, Dugmore, AJ, Scott, EM. 2007. The North Atlantic marine reservoir effect in the Early Holocene: implications for defining and understanding MRE values. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 259(1):438447.
Berger, R, Taylor, RE, Libby, WF. 1966. Radiocarbon content of marine shells from the California and Mexican west coast. Science 153(3738):864866.
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2009a. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51(1):337360.
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2009b. Dealing with outliers and offsets in radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon 51(3):10231045.
Bronk Ramsey, C, Lee, S. 2013. Recent and planned developments of the program OxCal. Radiocarbon 55(2–3):720730.
Buroker, NE. 1983. Population genetics of the American oyster Crassostrea virginica along the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico. Marine Biology 75:99112.
Carriker, MR, Palmer, RE, Prezant, RS. 1980. Functional ultramorphology of the dissoconch valves of oyster Crassostrea virginica . Proceedings of the National Shellfisheries Association 70:139182.
Cherkinsky, A, Culp, RA, Dvoracek, DK, Noakes, JE. 2010. Status of the AMS facility at the University of Georgia. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 268:867870.
Cherkinsky, A, Pluckhahn, TJ, Thompson, VD. 2014. Variation in radiocarbon age determinations from the Crystal River archaeological site, Florida. Radiocarbon 56(2):801810.
Chanton, JP, Lewis, FG. 1999. Plankton and dissolved inorganic carbon isotopic composition in a river-dominated estuary: Apalachicola Bay, Florida. Estuaries 22(3A):575583.
Culleton, BJ, Kennett, DJ, Ingram, LB, Erlandson, JM. 2006. Intrashell radiocarbon variability in marine mollusks. Radiocarbon 48(3):387400.
Deo, JN, Stone, JO, Stein, JK. 2004. Building confidence in shell: variations in the marine radiocarbon reservoir correction for the Northwest Coast over the past 3,000 years. American Antiquity 69(4):771786.
Forman, SL, Polyak, L. 1997. Radiocarbon content of pre-bomb marine mollusks and variations in the 14C reservoir age for the coastal areas of the Barents and Kara Seas, Russia. Geophysical Research Letters 24(8):885888.
Hadden, CS, Cherkinsky, A. 2015. 14C variations in pre-bomb nearshore habitats of the Florida Panhandle, USA. Radiocarbon 57(3):469477.
Hadden, CS, Cherkinsky, A. 2016. Spatiotemporal variability in ΔR in the northern Gulf of Mexico, USA. Radiocarbon DOI:10.1017/RDC 2016.65.
Higham, T. 2011. European Middle and Upper Palaeolithic radiocarbon dates are often older than they look: problems with previous dates and some remedies. Antiquity 85(327):235249.
Huang, W, Jones, WK. 1997. Three-dimensional modeling of circulation and salinity for the low river flow season in Apalachicola Bay, FL. Northwest Florida Water Management District. Water Resources Special Report 97-1.
Huang, W, Jones, WK. 2001. Characteristics of long-term freshwater transport in Apalachicola Bay. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 37(3):605615.
Ingram, BL, Southon, JR. 1996. Reservoir ages in eastern Pacific coastal and estuarine waters. Radiocarbon 38(3):573582.
Jones, KB, Hodgins, GWL, Dettman, DL, Andrus, CFT, Nelson, A, Etayo-Cadavid, MF. 2007. Seasonal variations in Peruvian marine reservoir age from pre-bomb Argopecten purpuratus shell carbonate. Radiocarbon 49(2):877888.
Jones, KB, Hodgins, GWL, Etayo-Cadavid, MF, Andrus, CFT, Sandweiss, DH. 2010. Centuries of marine radiocarbon reservoir age variation within archaeological Mesodesma donacium shells from southern Peru. Radiocarbon 52(2–3):12071214.
Jones, M, Nicholls, G. 2001. Reservoir offset models for radiocarbon calibration. Radiocarbon 43(1):119124.
Kennett, DJ, Ingram, BL, Erlandson, JM, Walker, P. 1997. Evidence for temporal fluctuations in marine radiocarbon reservoir ages in the Santa Barbara Channel, southern California. Journal of Archaeological Science 24:10511059.
Kennett, DJ, Ingram, BL, Southon, JR, Wise, K. 2002. Differences in 14C age between stratigraphically associated charcoal and marine shell from the Archaic period site of Kilometer 4, southern Peru: old wood or old water? Radiocarbon 44(1):5358.
Livingston, RJ. 1984. The Ecology of the Apalachicola Bay System: An Estuarine Profile. FWS/OBS 82/05. Washington, DC: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Lougheed, BC, Filipsson, HL, Snowball, I. 2013. Large spatial variations in coastal 14C reservoir age: a case study from the Baltic Sea. Climate of the Past 9(3):10151028.
Michczyòski, M. 2007. Is it possible to find a good point estimate of a calibrated radiocarbon date? Radiocarbon 49(2):393401.
Mook, WGA, Tan, FC. 1991. Stable carbon isotopes in rivers and estuaries. In: Degens ET, Kempe S, Richey JE, editors. Biogeochemistry of Major World Rivers. SCOPE Report 42. New York: SCOPE. p 245–64.
Reimer, PJ, Bard, E, Bayliss, A, Beck, JW, Blackwell, PJ, Bronk Ramsey, C, Buck, CE, Cheng, H, Edwards, RL, Friedrich, M, Grootes, PM, Guilderson, TP, Haflidason, H, Hajda, I, Hatté, C, Heaton, TJ, Hoffmann, DL, Hogg, AG, Hughen, KA, Kaiser, KF, Kromer, B, Manning, SW, Niu, M, Reimer, RW, Richards, DA, Scott, EM, Southon, SR, Staff, RA, Turney, CSM, van der Plicht, J. 2013. IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55(4):18691887.
Rick, TC, Henkes, GA. 2014. Radiocarbon variability in Crassostrea virginica shells from the Chesapeake Bay, USA. Radiocarbon 56(1):305311.
Rick, TC, Henkes, GA, Lowery, DL, Colman, SM, Culleton, BJ. 2012. Marine radiocarbon reservoir corrections (ΔR) for Chesapeake Bay and the Middle Atlantic coast of North America. Quaternary Research 77(1):205210.
Schiffer, MB. 1986. Radiocarbon dating and the “old wood” problem: the case of the Hohokam chronology. Journal of Archaeological Science 13(1):1330.
Schnable, JE, Goodell, HG. 1968. Pleistocene-Recent stratigraphy, evolution, and development of the Apalachicola coast, Florida. Geological Society of America Special Papers 112:1–66.
Scott, TM, Campbell, KM, Rupert, FR, Arthur, JD, Missimer, TM, Lloyd, JM, Yon, WJ, Duncan, JG. 2001. Geological map of the State of Florida. Produced by the Florida Geological Survey in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Stewart, RA, Gorsline, DS. 1962. Recent sedimentary history of St. Joseph Bay, Florida. Sedimentology 1:256286.
Stuiver, M, Pearson, GW, Braziunas, TF. 1986. Radiocarbon calibration of marine samples back to 9000 cal yr BP. Radiocarbon 28(2B):9801021.
Thomas, DH. 2008. Radiocarbon dating on St. Catherines Island. In: Native American Landscapes of St Catherines Island, Georgia II: The Data. American Museum of Natural History Anthropological Papers, Number 88. p 345–71.
Ward, GK, Wilson, SR. 1978. Procedures for comparing and combining radiocarbon age determinations: a critique. Archaeometry 20(1):1931.
White, NM. 2014. Apalachicola Valley riverine, estuarine, bayshore, and saltwater shell middens. The Florida Anthropologist 67(2–3):77104.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Carbon Reservoir Effects in Eastern Oyster from Apalachicola Bay, USA

  • Carla S Hadden (a1) and Alexander Cherkinsky (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.